The Impeachment Drive

It is clear that Democrats at the federal level have made a quick Year 2008 electoral calculation, and, finding they want to appeal to as wide a spectrum of voters as possible, have foregone the option of impeaching either Bush or Cheney.

A couple of months ago, actor Richard Dreyfuss appeared on the panel of Bill Maher’s cable TV show – the one that Bush literally drove off the air when it was on a national network. Dreyfuss, it turns out, has been studying the teaching of civics at Oxford for the last little while, and he had a suggestion for Congress.

“If you do nothing,” he said, and I am paraphrasing, “you are tacitly agreeing to the next President and Congress continuing with the same crimes and unconstitutional behavior perpetrated by the current administration. From that perspective, doing nothing is doing the wrong thing. You have to do something, to draw a line in history, to tell those who follow that you disagree with these transgressions, and want to separate yourself, and the country, from them.”

I was struck by the philosophical truth of this. I don’t think this is a graveyard that Congress can just go whistling by in the dark, hoping everything will somehow be OK later.

No one can argue that lying to lead the nation to war is an impeachable offense. There are probably ten or twenty others that could be added, but they are unnecessary. Going after Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson, instead of telling the nation the truth about Saddam not buying uranium in Niger, would be a single exhibit.

Everyone knows this pair is guilty of mulitple impeachable offenses; the real question each Congressperson is asking right now is, what’s in it for me?

Boy, is THAT the wrong calculus for this critical moment in American history.

Yesterday, I received an email announcing that there was a movement at the state level in Washington State to begin impeachment proceedings, by passing (non-binding, I believe) legislation at the state level. A friend tells me that there are states numbering in the double digits currently working on similar resolutions.

State level politicians are not afraid of the consequences of impeachment. I don’t know whether to call this really pathetic, or a great day in America. Maybe both.

While state leaders debate the impeachment question, and federal leaders discuss it secretly, I would like to make a suggestion. Many Democrats have scoffed at the idea, because it would put someone even more dangerous, Cheney, into office. For that reason, I would like to suggest all or nothing, but preferably, all: it’s a twofer.

Impeaching both Bush and Cheney together would punish two individuals who are remarkably, equally culpable. It would be hard for anyone to say that Cheney is not less guilty, in any way, than Bush, in actions damaging to (and continually dismissive of) the Constitution; in fact, most people would probably agree that it would be unfair to punish the less intellectually able one, Bush, when most of the ideas probably came from his office-mate, Cheney.

The secondary benefit of this to the Democrats is obvious: Nancy Pelosi would become the first woman president of the United States, if only for a year or so.

Contrary to what the politicos have been selling us on this question, an impeachment trial, as Dreyfuss suggests, would draw a line against a long history of extremist misbehavior, and in the doing, make Americans – not politicians – feel proud to be Americans once again. It would reaffirm the basic standards by which we all thought, just one administration ago, we had agreed upon 200 years earlier.